Elkhan and Orkhan Mammedov’s journey to Convocation started seven years ago, with a school visit. The Faculty of Mathematics and Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing visited the brothers’ home country of Azerbaijan, and instantly captured their attention.
Elkhan recalls being inspired by a presentation on math problems; “I was interested in that right away!” he laughs. The identical twins were already considering making the move to North America to pursue their interests in math and computer science, but learning more about Waterloo’s world-renowned co-operative education program put the university squarely on their radar.
“Co-op and strong academics were the main reasons we decided to choose Waterloo. The co-op program is probably the greatest advantage, especially for international students,” explains Elkhan. “It’s a chance to come to Canada, learn how the work is done in Western societies, get to know the norms – it’s great for your future.”
On Friday, the brothers will collect their Bachelor of Computer Science degrees, the culmination of five years of hard work, very far from home. It wasn’t always easy, but they always had each other. Asked if they had ever considered attending different universities, Orkhan is quick to shake his head with a smile.
“I think it was apparent from the very beginning that we would stick together.”
Culture shock hit the Mammedov brothers hard when they arrived. It wasn’t their first trip away from home, but they found themselves navigating a country that bore little resemblance to what they knew.
“It was very hard in the beginning: the first four months were a struggle,” remembers Orkhan. “It was our first semester in a completely different system of education – even if you compared it to the university system in Azerbaijan – so it was hard. But because we were together, it was easier for both of us. We were here to support each other.”
The pair also found a helping hand in the local Azerbaijani community, finding people – especially other students – that they could easily communicate any time they ran into problems.
The twins quickly found their groove in Waterloo, building a strong academic foundation and gaining valuable co-op experience. The latter has opened doors that they never thought possible, and Orkhan credits the process with showing him the full spectrum of what a career in computer science can offer.
His brother agrees, adding “I probably never would have dreamed about going to California and working there when I was back in Azerbaijan, and now it’s somehow come true. It wasn’t overnight success, but it shows that if you work hard, you can get where you want to be.“
The Mammedovs found their own paths through co-op, but always came together back on campus. Now that graduation is upon them, however, they’re ready to move in their own directions. Elkhan is headed to Berlin to re-join Snowflake, a cloud-based computing startup he worked with during his last co-op term. Orkhan plans to stay in Waterloo, where he’s accepted a job with Google. But first, they’ll take a walk across the convocation stage, and it only seems natural that they take that step together.
“This is greatest accomplishment in our life so far, getting this university degree, and Convocation will be one of the most memorable moments in life,” says Elkhan. “I’m very thankful for having my brother here with me.”